If you're looking for the star of the weekend when it came to the UFC's double-barreled schedule, look no further than Fabricio Werdum. It's very rare for a UFC fighter to have a second stint in the promotion and make a major run with it, and that's exactly what he is doing.
After winning at Saturday night's UFC 147, he's now 2-0 since rejoining the UFC, and just as impressive is his overhaul. In both of his wins -- against Roy Nelson and more recently, Mike Russow -- Werdum did his best work with his striking. His uppercut knockdown against Russow looked eerily similar to the one that heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos used to put his lights out back in October 2008 in the fight that knocked Werdum out of the UFC.
Now back, he's got his sights set on a return date against dos Santos, and with a re-tooled offensive game, he just might get there.
On to the matchups...
I'd like to suggest Maynard vs. Nate Diaz in a trilogy fight from their Ultimate Fighter season five scrap that took place five years ago and Fight Night match more recently that ended in a split decision. The two are both very different fighters these days, yet both are ranked near the top of the weight class. It's a fight that just makes sense. However, the UFC has promised Diaz a crack at the Ben Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar winner, so looking elsewhere, one particular fight makes the most sense. It's Anthony Pettis. The kickboxer is currently recovering from shoulder surgery, but is supposed to be ready to fight around late summer or early fall. That should fit with Maynard's schedule as well.
It's been a long time since we've seen someone go from crowd favorite to subject of contempt so quickly, but Guida pulled the trick in less than four rounds with his quirky, defensive-minded game plan against Maynard. Every fighter has to go in with a strategy that he feels confident with, regardless of what criticism may follow. That said, they have to know that criticism will indeed follow, because no one watches fights for defense. It is and always will be an offensive game, and because this was so far out of the norm for Guida, I don't expect many to hold it against him unless it happens again. After losing two in a row, I can't imagine he will, and put his job on the line in the process.
Prediction: He faces Jim Miller
After beating T.J. Waldburger at UFC on FX 4 for his fourth straight octagon win, Ebersole surprised many by saying he was contemplating a move to lightweight. That situation remains unresolved for now, so we're going to go ahead and assume Ebersole keeps on his current welterweight track until confirmation.
Prediction: He faces the winner of July's Dong Hyun Kim vs. Demian Maia fight
Swanson is one of the most enigmatic talents in the UFC, a guy who is capable of looking like a world-beater one day, and looking overmatched the next. His knockout win over Ross Pearson was his second straight, and given Pearson's stature as a big featherweight, that's a strong win. Swanson still has some work to do to get towards a championship level though.
Prediction: He faces Darren Elkins
Siler has become a pretty intriguing prospect at featherweight for his cage generalship and ability to adapt to his opponent's strengths. Though his UFC on FX 4 opponent Joey Gambino was making his octagon debut and was relatively unknown to most audiences, he trains with the famed Tri-Star gym and came into the fight unbeaten. In other words, he was a legitimate opponent, and Siler needed just 2:47 to finish him. He was originally supposed to be facing Jim Hettes, and that's a matchup that still makes sense.
Aside from a nearly disastrous second round, Franklin expertly used his footwork and reach to out-work Wanderlei Silva over the course of 25 minutes at UFC 147. At 37 years old, Franklin has hopes of making one last run at the middleweight title. For all he's done in the promotion, I guess he deserves the opportunity. Given the current state of the division, his next fight could go in a lot of different directions.
Prediction: He takes on the winner of July's Tim Boetsch vs. Hector Lombard fight
The old warrior still has some fight left in him. Silva may have lost, but he still flashed moments of his old self, when he was the most feared slugger in the game. The problem is those moments seem to be faster and more fleeting each time out. Since September 2006, Silva is just 3-7 with four knockout losses, and even though nearly all of those fights have come against the sport's elite, you have to wonder where exactly he goes from here. Like many veterans, he probably won't see much use in fighting up-and-comers, and his record disqualifies him from top contenders. That leaves him with fewer options with every loss.
Prediction: He faces the winner of August's Yushin Okami vs. Rousimar Palhares fight
With Alistair Overeem out of action, Werdum has a case as the No. 3 heavyweight in the UFC behind champ Junior dos Santos and challenger Cain Velasquez. So what do you do with him? Overeem won't be back until early next year, so a rematch is out. Other top 10s like Frank Mir and Shane Carwin are coming off losses, and Mark Hunt is injured. Here's the way I think it plays out: Overeem still gets a title match when he returns, leaving Werdum to win one more time to get his own shot. In the meantime, he's got to face a fighter with relevance and name value.
Prediction: Werdum vs. Mir
Dias made his UFC debut memorable, upsetting Yuri Alcantara, a fighter that many had pegged as a future title contender. At the same time, his game can be overly reliant on wrestling, positional control and ground work. Because of that, he should next face off with someone who could cancel out those advantages and test him in other ways. That brings us to our next fighter…
If Werdum wasn't the star of the weekend, that honor might otherwise go to Lamas, who effectively stomped out the title chances of Hatsu Hioki with a decision win. Given his wrestling acumen and place in the division, he'd make a solid opponent for the aforementioned Dias
Prediction: Dias vs. Lamas